getting to know San Jose


As you can see from the map of san jose , San Joes's streets are laid out in a very logical system: odd-numbered streets (calles) are east of Calle Central, even-numbered streets are west. Odd numbered avenidas are north of Avenida Central and even-numbered avenues are south. So if an address is on c 17, a 5/7, it is in the northeastern part of the city.

Perhaps because Costa Rica is a small country in transition from rural to urban, most Ticos completely ignore the street numbering system. Calles and avenidas appear in the phone book, and that's about it. The accepted way to give directions is from puntos cardinales or landmarks. If you call for a taxi you have to give the name of a church or a pulperia (grocery store) or a well-known business (like Pollos Kentucky ). Then you state how many metros you are from there and in what direction. Cien (100) metros roughly corresponds to one city block. These are some examples of typical ways of giving directions: " De la pulperia La Luz, cien metros al norte y cincuenta al oeste ." (From the La Luz grocery store one block north and half a block west.) " De la Iglesia La Soledad, doscientos al sur y trescientos al este ." (From the Soledad Church , two blocks south and three blocks east).

The area bordered by Calle 4 on the west, Avenida 9 on the north, Calle 23 on the east and Avenida 2 on the south is the heart of downtown culture and nightlife, and is usually quite safe.

If you have come to Costa Rica to get close to nature, you will probably want to get out of San Jose as fast as possible. It is crowded, noisy, and polluted with black diesel fumes. But you might have to spend some time there, so here are some tips:

1. When crossing streets in downtown San Jose look over your shoulder at the cars coming from behind you. In practice, the pedestrian does not have the right of way. Drivers love to whip around comers whether or not people are trying to cross.

2. When a traffic light for oncoming cars changes from green to yellow or red, do not take it to mean that the cars will stop. Look at the cars, not the light. When you see that the cars have stopped, run across real quick. This habit is easily developed because another loveable characteristic of San Jose is that traffic lights are hung so that pedestrians cannot see them. Buena suerte .

3. Street numbers are attached to the sides of buildings near intersections. Not all comers have them, but keep looking and you're bound to find one.

4. To orient yourself in cities and villages, remember that most Catholic churches have their entrances on the west so that the altar faces east.

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